CLEARFIELD — In front of a raucous crowd and a playoff atmosphere, Bountiful held off Clearfield 11-9 Thursday.
“I told the girls to find any way to win the game. It’s always a wild one here,” Bountiful coach Butch Latey said.
Bountiful jumped out to an early lead behind a three-run home run by senior catcher Kristi DuBois.
“I hadn’t been hitting too great. Coach was mad at me and told me not to drop my hands. I wanted to get on top of one and hit it hard. I did and it went out,” DuBois said.
Trailing 8-4 after the second inning, Clearfield sophomore pitcher Bailey Douglas knew something needed to change. “I went from pitching inside to outside and high. I started to throw more off-speed,” she said.
The change in pitching philosophy slowed the Braves' offense and gave the Falcons time to claw back.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Clearfield catcher Kassidy Young hit a two-run homer to pull the Falcons to within three. Young said: “I went up there trying to hit a bomb. I’m glad I did.”
Following Young’s home run, Clearfield’s Kaycee Ray reached base and took third base on a single by Tayley Stoddart. Stoddart tried to stretch her single into a double. When Bountiful threw to second to catch Stoddard, Ray raced for home. Bountiful second baseman Sydney Austin threw home, but the throw was in the dirt.
That’s when Bountiful’s DuBois made the play of the game. DuBois scooped the ball up and tagged a diving Ray to end the Clearfield rally.
“I saw (the ball) out of Syd’s hand and knew it was coming low. I didn’t want the ball to get past me and let the runner advance. I was able to dig it and then tag the runner,” DuBois said.
With its lead cut to three, Bountiful added some insurance in the sixth, scoring two runs on a single by AnnMarie Allred. Bountiful’s Latey said: “I knew we would go seven innings. (Clearfield) just kept coming.”
The Falcons answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth and were threatening to score more when DuBois saved Bountiful yet again. Clearfield had a runner on second base with Young up to bat looking to do more damage.
But the Clearfield runner strayed too far off second and DuBois fired a bullet from behind home plate to pick the runner off.
“I never have actually been able to make that play. We practice it a lot. I put all my power into it,” DuBois said.
Clearfield cut the lead to 11-9 and brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. “It was pretty intense. It was nerve-wrecking with all of the fans, but I knew we would pull through,” said Bountiful first baseman Brook Dickerson.
Pitching her third game of the week, Bountiful’s Belle Stoddard bore down. Twice she had to throw 10 pitches to a batter during the inning, but each time Stoddard retired the batter. She forced a weak pop-up to Clearfield’s lead-off hitter to end the game.
“It was fun to play a competitive game. Both teams made more errors than we would have liked. Bountiful was able to better capitalize on our errors,” Falcons head coach Nicole Tindall said following Clearfield’s first loss in five games.
Bountiful finished with 14 hits. DuBois and Landi Hawker both had four hits each. The Braves capitalized on nine Falcon errors.
Clearfield had 12 hits, including six for extra bases. “We hit a lot in practice (Wednesday). We tried to throw batting practice like Belle (Stoddard). We threw a ton of curves and rise balls,” Tindall said.
With the win, the Braves improved to 13-1 and 8-0 in Region 6. They play archrival Woods Cross on Tuesday. Clearfield fell to 5-3 in Region 6 and will play Syracuse Friday.
David Pearce is general counsel with Beneficial Life Insurance Company.